Arguably one of the most picturesque and relaxing places to drink and dine in the capital, this historic and much-loved gastro pub is part of the Gordon Ramsay empire and it always delivers an enjoyable experience whatever time or day of the week you visit.
As the name suggests, this famous offering is situated in an idyllic riverfront location on trendy Narrow Street in the heart of Limehouse, East London. Rich in history, this Grade 11 listed building stands proud at the entrance to the Limehouse basin and is perfect for serving the number of well-heeled residents of the area as well as a flurry of regulars that flock to this sometimes overlooked part of London.
Entry is via a small, steep staircase off the main street, where you are greeted by the most splendid of views across the meandering River Thames. A sizeable outdoor area fronts onto the river and acts as a sun-trap spotlighting the numerous wooden benches. Luckily oversized parasols are scattered throughout the terrace. Tall outside lighting reflects in the water casting the former dock maker’s house in a dewy, romantic glow.
Internally, the space is divided into a dining and separate bar area, all complete with floor-to-ceiling retractable glass doors which offer panoramic views, whether it is warm enough to dine al fresco or so cold you need to recline in front of the fire. The original features of the building have been perfectly restored in order to remain faithful to the history of the site. A subdued palette of earthy colours make up the decor and furnishings of this drinking hole with dark wood tables contrasting with the light oak bar. Damson and duck egg blue are used sparingly to highlight particular features, such as delicate fireplaces and comfy striped armchairs which are perfect for lounging around on a Sunday afternoon. Historical photography and maps of the region adorn the walls offering customers not just a superb gastronomic experience but a cultural lesson too.
In contrast to the effortless appeal of the central bar area, the restaurant hosts large, freshly dressed tables by the wrap-around windows. These seats offer shelter whilst looking out onto the twinkling lights of nearby Canary Wharf.
The Narrow is one of the worst kept secrets in London’s food world and, as much as local residents’ probably wish it was a little less busy at weekends, it can be described as the focal point of the Narrow Street, bringing the whole of East London, and then some, together for beers in the sunshine, hearty British food and lazy afternoons in a relaxed and comfortable environment. The weekend sees this place teeming with twenty and thirtysomethings, families and couples, and you will need to book in advance if you intend to sample the food. The air is a constant mix of animated chatter and relaxed laughter and it’s all too easy to whittle away the hours whilst reclining and taking in the breathtaking views. The staff are friendly and attentive, even in the busiest hours, which is a welcome facet. The fact that they address regular customers by name adds a personal touch which sees people return again and again.
The Narrow prides itself on its scrumptious gastro options, with old British favourites such as beer-battered fish and chunky chips (accompanied by the obligatory mushy peas, £13) and the mouth-watering Gloucester Old Spot sausages, mustard mash and red pepper relish (£12) popular choices on the evening menu. The bangers are large, hearty and sit on top of a mound of creamy mashed potato, embellished with slithers of relish - the perfect guilty indulgence. The Sunday roast is a favourite dish of dedicated Narrow diners, with a satisfying feast offering a different cut of beef each week, crispy Yorkshire puds, perfectly formed duck-fat roast potatoes and a medley of seasonal vegetables (£14.50).
You could be forgiven for expecting The Narrow to be ridiculously over-priced, offering small portions on oversized plates, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Set lunches are also offered should you happen to be in the area and at £18 for two courses or £22 for three, you’d struggle to resist the delicate fishcakes topped off with a generous dollop of rich tartare sauce, before tucking into a generous steamed treacle pudding. The dessert menu is temptingly varied with something for all tastes; from a freshly made cherry tart with a delectable hazelnut ice cream to a personal favourite of chocolate and pecan brownie.
As with most gastro pubs, a bar menu is available throughout the day. Culinary options such as the baby sausages (£5) drenched in a finger-licking, sweet honey and mustard sauce, or a more adventurous offering of tender herring roe on crunchy toast together with lashings of parsley and brown butter (£7) should more than do the job.
The Narrow takes its wine list very seriously with an inspired selection of whites and reds. The Pinot Blanc (£20 per bottle) is the perfect accompaniment to one of the delicious fish dishes or for something a little sweeter, the 2007 Muscat de St.Jean (£5.20 a glass/£18.20 a bottle) is a popular choice. Many a Champagne cork has been popped in this stylish location and with prices starting at £40 for a Brut Majeur, it’s not prohibitive in its pricing.
Traditional real ales remain a focal point of the pub. The St Edmunds Greene King (£3.40 a pint) is a particularly good ‘blonde beer’ with a delightful zesty, crisp finish. A great range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails attract a slightly younger crowd at lunchtimes, with inexpensive but thirst-quenching options like the Gentle Sea Breeze (£3.50), a fruity mix of cranberry and grapefruit, garnished with a pinch of mint, served in an aesthetically pleasing glass.
The Last Word
You’ll be hard pushed to find something you don’t like about The Narrow. With a well deserved reputation, an impeccable yet creative menu and one of the best locations in London, this delightful gastro pub more than manages to stand out from the mass of chain bars and restaurants that seem to grace every corner of neighbouring Canary Wharf.